Buffalo Bills: History of drafting quarterbacks in the first round

Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart /Allsport /
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images) /

1983 Draft – Pick #14 Overall

160 games started, 101-59 record, 35,467 passing yards, 237 TDs, and 175 INTs

The 1983 draft was arguably the best first round in NFL history. It produced six Hall of Famers and six Quarterbacks in the first round alone.

The Buffalo Bills had two picks in the first round that year. Sound familiar? With their first pick at No. 12 overall they took tight end Tony Hunter.

With their second first-round pick at No. 14 they did select a quarterback from Miami, named Jim Kelly. Kelly would lead the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls, become a Hall of Famer and one become of the most impactful individuals within the Buffalo community.

Part of the reason for Jim Kelly’s success with the Bills is that they had the strong management under Bill Polian and Marv Levy, a strong defense anchored by Bruce Smith and good role players with Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas.

For that type of success and consistency, obviously winning helped. The Bills went to the playoffs in eight of Kelly’s 11 seasons. The consistency also was aided by there not being a different version of free agency than there is today. Players didn’t switch teams as often, and coaches had longer ropes to figure things out before being fired.

The question is, how smart were the Bills in making the selection of Jim Kelly? If you knew after the fact how great a quarterback he would become, you wouldn’t wait until pick No. 14 to make his selection. They were fortunate the Kansas Chiefs selected Todd Blackledge instead of Jim Kelly earlier in the draft. The New England Patriots also took a QB at pick No. 15, and the Bills never traded up or attempted to get Kelly earlier to prevent somebody jumping them in the draft.

The Bills were fortunate that Kelly fell to them, although they still made mistakes by letting him escape to the USFL for two seasons.

The Bills weren’t aggressive in 1983, and they took the best QB available at the time they selected. This is a theme that follows for the two less successful QBs selected in the first round. This is NOT what the Buffalo Bills are doing today.